Secondary Prevention: Definition & Examples

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  • 0:00 Preventing Disease or Injury
  • 0:39 What Is Secondary Prevention?
  • 1:38 Examples of Secondary…
  • 3:33 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

In this lesson, you're going to learn about the concept of secondary prevention through its definition and several concrete examples of its uses and intentions.

Preventing a Disease or Injury

If you're playing it safe in life, as well you should when it comes to health, you try to prevent a disease or injury before it happens. For example, if you wear a helmet, then you're trying to prevent cuts and scrapes to your head, or brain damage from an accident.

In some cases, however, it's too late. In other words, you already have some sort of medical issue but it has yet to cause you serious or noticeable problems. What do we do in these cases in order to try and minimize the impact of the disease process? We turn to the concept of secondary prevention.

What Is Secondary Prevention?

Secondary prevention refers to interrupting an asymptomatic disease before it becomes symptomatic, or at least catching a disease at its early stages when few signs and symptoms are present. In other words, you've already gotten sick, you just don't know it yet, or you're only beginning to suspect it. Secondary prevention tries to intervene and hopefully put an end to the disease before it fully develops.

Primary prevention is concerned with preventing the onset of a disease, while secondary prevention tries to reduce the number of new or severe cases of a disease. Even if we can't prevent the disease from becoming overtly symptomatic, we can at least reduce its impact with secondary prevention. As the saying goes, it's better to nip it in the bud.

By targeting people who have recently been exposed to a disease-causing agent, such as a bacterium or a chemical, or those who have the earliest symptoms of a disease, we can reduce the mortality and morbidity associated with it using certain strategies.

Examples of Secondary Prevention

Let's go over some of the secondary prevention strategies with a few examples. Methods include a range of diagnostic tests and treatments that are designed to prevent a newly established disease process, one in its earliest stages, from getting any worse.

First, let's look at post-exposure vaccine. Let's say you awaken one night in your bedroom and find a bat has bitten you. You're right to suspect that you've been infected with the deadly rabies virus. However, the virus takes some time to actually cause a person any symptoms, let alone death. This means you can rush to your doctor to get what's known as a post-exposure vaccine. The vaccine stops the disease in its tracks so you don't actually get overtly sick.

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